Voices from Charlottesville

August 21, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


Voices from Charlottesville

On the weekend of August 12-13 and following, correspondents from Revolution/revcom.us were in Charlottesville, Virginia, to report on the protest against the white supremacist, neo-Nazi rally and developments after the fascists murdered one of the protesters, Heather Heyer, and injured many others. These are notes from our correspondents. (The names of those interviewed have been changed)

Part 1

We arrived in Charlottesville (popularly known as C’ville) on Friday afternoon, and went to St. Paul’s Memorial Church for an evening gathering in preparation for the weekend. It was organized by the Reverend William Peyton of St. Paul’s and other progressive religious forces in C’ville—Christian, Muslim, and Jewish. They had issued a broader call which brought others to the gathering, including Harvard professor Cornel West and Reverend Traci Blackmon, Executive Minister of Justice & Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ. The church was packed with more than 500 people.

Folks from Refuse Fascism and the Revolution Club were there and distributed flyers for the August 19 regional conferences and the call for November 4—for people to be out in the streets and public squares in towns and cities across the country, and not stop until the demand is met that the Trump/Pence fascist regime must go.

Everyone received an event program walking in—#CvilleClergyCall—which made it clear how the clergy who’d organized the event viewed this moment. The lyrics to the song “Wade in the Water” were in it, updated with these special refrains:

In 2017 new hate arose
Immigrants and Muslims were some of the foes
Jewish people too relived the hate
LGBTQ got more of the same
A call was sent for the faithful to come
Stand against the alt right and the evil it does
The people gathered in Charlottesville
They came to take a stand and share God’s will

We were able to speak with many people going in, and what we found was everyone there was taking this extremely seriously, and with the understanding that they had a responsibility to be out there challenging these white supremacists/KKK/Nazis—despite the risk. Some were coming more from a religious viewpoint of “bearing witness,” while many others were determined that these fascists had to be confronted.

We spoke with Laura, a woman who’s lived in Charlottesville for 30 years after marrying a “Southerner” and moving from upstate New York. She said how strange it was to live around these monuments to the Confederacy and the “Southern heritage.” And she continued, “What’s happened in this country and specifically in Charlottesville, around race and using these monuments as an excuse for racism is beyond the pale. And I’m just really happy that people are coming out and getting into the streets in a way they haven’t in many years.”

We asked her about the next day, and what she felt we should be trying to accomplish. She said, “Standing up and showing in numbers that this won’t be tolerated—this is our town, this is our country.” And she made the point about the role of Trump’s election: “These folks have been on the Internet and kind of hiding beyond the shadows—and they’ve always been there. But now they’re emboldened by the Trump presidency to come out, and we need to show them they won’t be tolerated.”

Laura wasn’t sure she considered this regime fascist, but she did say they were “illegitimate.” When we asked what she thought it would take to drive this regime from power, she first looked at it as something the Republicans had to do. “I don’t know what... ‘shoe has got to drop’—it’s raining shoes, it’s a shoe storm. I’m not sure if I believe if it’s going to be the masses rising up. I think there’s a lot of power in that, but I think power is so entrenched right now that it’s going to take seated officials at this point, maybe, I don’t know.”

We got more into why only the masses of people, in their millions and tens of millions, can drive out this fascist regime. We showed her page 2 of the print issue of Revolution newspaper and introduced her to the revolutionary leader Bob Avakian, and then went to the centerfold and showed her Refuse Fascism’s call for November 4. Laura was really happy to get the newspaper and gave a donation.

We were also able to speak with Christine, who sensed something very serious about this moment: “It’s unbelievable, the voices of hate. I do not understand what is going on. I am terrified. I am terrified. And I really believe Donald Trump is encouraging this—they have come out of the woodwork since he became president. And I’m very terrified for this country and where we’re going. I think we have to show up to be a different voice.”

The church had security outside before the meeting, because the white supremacists were roaming the area in cars. The church was warned by the police not to let anyone leave. We opened the doors and saw hundreds and hundreds of KKK/Nazis up on the lawn of the University of Virginia (UVA) campus across the street, without the hoods, marching with torches. It was chilling. These Nazi brown shirt goons were making it clear that “making America great again” meant returning to the “good old days” of the white supremacy of the Jim Crow era, and slavery.

Part 2

Early Saturday morning, groups of fascist white supremacists arrived and marched through the neighborhoods on their way to the statue of Robert E. Lee in Emancipation Park—viciously attacking anyone who opposed them along the way. They carried Nazi and Confederate flags along with clubs and other weapons, while dozens of armed militiamen were among them in military uniforms carrying rifles and pistols. At the same time, hundreds and hundreds of counter-protesters came together in the main street adjacent to the park to confront them. The fascists attacked people brutally, which led to many clashes with those who actively defended themselves. These bloody encounters went on in the street till nearly noon when the pigs, who had been spectators till that point, suddenly declared an “unlawful assembly” and forced everyone to leave the area.

In the middle of the street, with a helicopter overhead and tear gas in the air, we had a chance to speak with Steve, a Black community organizer. We asked him about what was happening, and what caused it. “The Trump administration obviously has brought those demons that were already there, back out of their caves, back out of their lairs. So what we’re seeing is what was already there—emboldened and enabled by the Trump administration. What we’re seeing is what was already there.” What did he think we should do about it? “What we’re doing right now—come into the streets and make sure our voice is felt and make sure those fascists know that America is not going backward no matter what.... our being here, of us meeting them—man for man, woman for woman—sends them the message that they would be better served by staying in the holes from which they came. Because the people are pushing society forward, always forward, we’re always going forward, we’re never going back.”

Steve said he agreed with the Refuse Fascism “NO” sign: “It’s illegitimate and it’s certainly fascist. We’ve seen incidents of violence towards people of color, hate crimes on an uptick since that man was inaugurated but he’s never said a word. So by his very silence he is condoning fascism and of course through his policies.” Steve grappled with the Refuse Fascism call to “drive out” this regime. He pointed to the protests on the day of Trump’s inauguration and the Women’s Marches the next day, but said they only lasted a day. When we asked how we can go from protesting for a day to not going home till the regime is gone, he said, “That’s the work. I don’t have all the answers to that but that’s what needs to take place—protest on a massive scale like there was on Inauguration Day, protest on a massive scale like there was during the Women’s March—and NOT going home. And NOT going home until the will of people is acknowledged and respected and implemented by the government.”

With Steve and other people we talked to, we told them about the plans for November 4—to take to the streets and public squares in towns and cities around the country, and continuing until the demand is met: NO! This Nightmare Must End: The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go!

At this point we went with others back to a nearby park that had been set up by some of the ministers as a place to regroup. It was there that we first learned about the savage murder of Heather Heyer and the other 19 sent to the hospital by one of these Nazi white supremacists. Someone passed out flowers and we created a makeshift memorial for Heather there in the park.

We talked with Joe, who’d come from Philadelphia by himself on Friday, and was at the UVA rotunda to stand with the students when the KKK/Nazis showed up with their torches and weapons. He said he’d come because he wanted to stand against fascism and white supremacy. “I was just standing up for what’s right; standing on the right side of history.” We asked whether he connected this with Trump. “Absolutely. The rise of this stuff? There’s a direct correlation. He’s giving a wink and a nod to these people... You’ve got Jeff Sessions as attorney general, rolling back civil rights. There’s the mosque bombing last week that Trump still has not come out and denounced. All this is a wink and a nod, to allow this kind of hatred to exist and thrive.”

Why did Joe think this regime is doing that? He called it a fascist divide-and-conquer tactic. “They want to embolden their base to squash dissent.” Does he think it’s fascism? “Yeah. That’s what I see; fascism right here. Last night at that torchlight march, that was nothing but fear and intimidation. And it’s targeted. That’s fascism.”

Several people spoke from the microphone, including someone from Refuse Fascism and Lucha from the Revolution Club. Their messages were very welcomed by those in the park. Later in the park, the Revolution Club gathered with a group of Black youths. Everyone had their copies of Revolution opened to “HOW WE CAN WIN—How We Can Really Make Revolution”—reading it out loud, and talking about it.

We went up to Dan and Ellen, a young couple who were clearly moved by the whole scene. They had just gotten there after driving for hours—late only because they had to get their car out of the shop. I asked Dan why they felt they had to come to Charlottesville. “Why? Because I care about people; I care about humanity first and foremost, and no one should have to live in their community frightened. Regardless of your race, or class, no one should have to be afraid, especially from the tyranny that we saw earlier today. So I felt it was my duty as a person to come out in some way and just give my body and my presence, my energy, whatever metaphysical thing you want. So that was my explanation for why I wanted to come.”

Dan continued: “I kept reading the news today, and speaking to Ellen, and to my mother.... All day I wanted to come.” Then Ellen spoke, “Yeah, we were really frightened by what we saw today and wanted to come out and support the people.” Did Dan think Trump was responsible? “He’s certainly not helping the situation. He’s more of a buffoon, or an embodiment for the type of white supremacy and hatred we saw today. He’s their symbol, if you will.... So I definitely think Trump is contributing to it, based on his comments today; not even acknowledging the murder, blaming violence on many sides. I don’t know how you can claim violence on many sides, when one shows up with riot shields with intentions to hurt people. Clear and simple. That’s how I view the Unite the Right rallies. They were coming here specifically to hurt people, and to cause terror in the community, and throughout the country.”

Near the end a woman came up, wanting to tell us about an incident she’d witnessed earlier in the day. “There was a group of protesters—fascists, Nazis—and they got cordoned off by the police. So they stopped and lined up, doing the drumming thing. Then some antifa forces came around the corner and they were exchanging words for a while. And then the right became violent, and started pummeling on two guys in particular, and a woman, who started bleeding from a head wound. She was bleeding a lot. The police just watched it. They started to walk over at a certain point, but nobody was arrested. Nobody. It’s terrifying, that they would have so much force, and then just watch people get beat.”


The Revolution Club held a speak-out on Sunday afternoon in the downtown outdoor mall area in Charlottesville.

As we walked along the mall it felt like everything had changed as a result of the Nazi/white supremacist attack the day before, the murder of Heather Heyer, and the serious injuries to 19 other counter-protesters, and Trump’s statement backing the fascist thugs. At the site of the murder, there was a memorial with Heather’s picture, flowers, and lots of messages in chalk written on the ground. Outside one shop the owner had put up a sandwich board saying “If Equality & Diversity Aren’t for You, Then Neither Are We. Minority Rights are Human Rights!” There were more and more pigs the farther we walked.

At the end of the mall you could hear loud chanting by hundreds and hundreds of protesters outraged that Jason Kessler, the Nazi who organized the white supremacist rally, was daring to call a press conference right there in front of City Hall. People came with handmade signs saying “Justice for Heather”; “Heather’s Blood Is On Your Hands”; “Hate Has No Home Here”; and “Maybe You’re Being Replaced Because You Suck.” People chanted “Shame on You,” and “Heather’s Blood Is On Your Hands.” This Nazi/fascist/white supremacist killer was forced to cancel his press conference.

While we were there we ran into two young women who had taken a red-eye flight from Los Angeles and gotten there Sunday morning. They were attending a Christian college and had been home schooled. They told us they’d come because they watched the protests on TV all day Saturday, and finally decided they were not going to be like those white people who stand on the sidelines just watching and doing nothing.

As the protest was winding down, a block away the Revolution Club began speaking on a bullhorn. One of the Club’s leaders told revcom.us:

We ended up leading a speak-out for 90 minutes, a rotating crowd with hundreds going through at different points. There were dozens of people who spoke—some repeatedly— a lot of different kinds of people: some middle class white people and Black people spoke, but the main character of it was the basic people from the neighborhoods. One thing that stood out to me was that there was a very dynamic thing that happened during the speak-out: a process of struggle and debate that was being worked through, interrupted every now and then when some white supremacist would come through and start yelling or something and people would confront them. At one point the pigs lined up and then they backed off. One white supremacist moved away to stand in front of the police station—like it was his safe space.

One important thing: in the speak-out we did a lot of work, agitation, leading people—we were stressing that these were the outlines of a civil war and people needed to get organized for revolution and there being a leadership and a strategy and a plan—and people were hearing this. This whole system gave rise to [these horrors] and that system has to be overthrown. And we also talked about the need to drive out this regime that was unleashing all these Nazis. We did a round of agitation on how we can win and told people now they need to get their Revolution newspapers and all these people came around grabbing for their papers. So there were lines and ideologies being struggled and debated out in the speak-out.

During the speak-out one woman said: “What I want to say as a Black grandma, standing, taking a spot on the front lines, to protect the people that couldn’t protect themselves. One Nazi spit in a girl’s face, and the police stood there, talking about there wasn’t nothin’ they could do. C’ville police didn’t protect us yesterday, and they didn’t protect us July 8... fuck the police!” A young man took the mic and was livid, talking about a Black kid in a garage who was beaten by fascists wielding poles, and he shouted how that “is NOT free speech! We’ve had enough of this shit! Tell these motherfuckers to get out of our town, and to stay out.”


At one point a 16-year-old woman we later learned was from Afghanistan spoke to the crowd: “I’m not from Charlottesville, and from two hours away I drove down here because I had to be a part of this. This isn’t my first rally. I’ve been to about seven rallies with Black Lives Matter. And it breaks my fucking heart... (She began to cry, and people shouted out to encourage her to go on.) I swear to god, if it was someone Black they would beat them down in a heartbeat. (“They shoot them, baby, they shoot them,” another woman shouted). The African-American race is the most oppressed race in the entire world. And it is so disgusting that it is still going on in two thousand fucking seventeen.” She continued: “Trayvon Martin was my first one. I’ve been protesting since I was in sixth grade. I’ve been to Mike Brown; I’ve been to Freddie Gray; I’ve been to so many, and I just want this shit to stop.”

Later we ran into one of the Black youths who had spoken on the mall. We talked, and he left with a copy of BAsics. We saw him the next morning and he told us that he had read a couple of quotes from BAsics with a friend. “You know, that first one that says ‘The United States would never be what it is today without slavery.’ I’m pretty sick and tired of seeing people be on TV, especially after the previous events, and saying ‘This isn’t the way this country was built. This isn’t what this country was built on.’ But it is. It is what this country is built on.”

Part 4

We spent some time at a Black housing project in Charlottesville, one of the projects in different parts of the city. This one is near the church where the state governor had spoken Sunday morning. You could tell the events on Saturday, followed by Trump’s statement where he made it clear that he was with the racists, had affected people deeply, and they were trying to come to terms with it themselves. A couple who were walking to their apartment stopped to talk.

Debra spoke first: “It was just so bad. You know how people got beat. The young lady got killed by the car. And then they’re still trying to find some way to make it so it wasn’t his fault. They’re saying something went wrong with the car. They keep saying different things. No. Wasn’t nothin’ wrong with the car. You were behind the wheel of that car and you are responsible. The people that allowed them to come here are responsible for everything that happened. And I blame them.

“My 11-year-old son, he has to see this. And he has to ask me questions that, honestly, I didn’t want to even answer. Because, this time and day, we still should not have to deal with this. We have these rallies and stuff. To me it was a disgrace. I can’t even believe that they would allow them to come here, to do what they did, and then, hear news that they supposed to be coming back. How do we protect ourselves? What are we supposed to do? We’re just supposed to lay down and get hurt and get beat? We can’t fight back? Cause, you know, we’re the ones that are gonna get locked up because we’re trying to protect ourselves. And it’s not right. It is not right.”

We asked Debra how she felt that people came to town to stop them. “Honestly, I was glad. I was relieved, because to know that so many people stood up for us. Stood up for us. It was such a relief. I’m saddened people got hurt. People got killed. I’m saddened. Because people are standing up for what people believe in. You get hurt and you get killed for something you believe in?”

Debra told us about her mom. “We still have to live in fear. I have a mother who’s sick. She called me today and said she needed to go to the store, she said ‘but I’m scared.’ To hear my mom say that? You’re scared?” Robert interrupts, “And she’s been here for almost all her life. You’re scared? It shouldn’t be like that.”

Robert continued, “I have to echo what she said, because I never thought in a million years that I would have to explain to my children, it’s in history books, you’re going over it in history classes, and then to see this is actually a reality? I had to cry when I was talking to my son, like ‘What is this, and why is it happening?’ And I’m looking at him. An innocent child, who knows nothing about this. Who’s been taught to love everybody, to respect everybody, you don’t know anything outside of this and I have to explain why this is the way it is. That is so heartbreaking for a parent. And then for it to actually be broadcast over the United States of America, and beyond that. And for our president to take it as lightly as he did. For us, it was a tragedy. It was beyond a tragedy. It was a horrific moment.... I don’t think it was two-sided. Those people came here to harm people. They came walking the streets of our city, to intimidate us with their guns, and uniforms on. They were ready. And they came to do exactly what they did.”

We asked Robert what role he thought Donald Trump played in these Nazis being emboldened. “I watched his campaign. And I watched how he allowed them to attack people in his campaign. You may not have verbally said to these people that this is okay. But because you said nothing to prevent them from doing this in your campaign… that is saying to them, clearly, that this is okay. So because you already opened that door and allowed them to do these things, they think it’s okay. They feel like you condoned them. And your words, and what has happened already, a part of me does think he condones it.... I watched his press conference. I was baffled. I literally sat in my living room and said, ‘What in the hell?’ He gave Charlottesville all of five minutes, and then he moved on to what he had done for America.... He blamed everybody. And I believe the only reason he blamed the Nazis and the white supremacists was just to save face. I pay attention to everything. David Duke, he told him, ‘This is why we voted for you. This is what we believe you want us to do. We’re making America great again.’”

We came to these projects with a member of the Revolution Club, and she was invited into the backyard of two older Black women. She was talking to them about attending Refuse Fascism’s August 19 organizing conference. One of the women makes food for others in the projects. She decided that one way she could contribute was to deliver the food and tell them their contributions were going to help people get to the conference.

We then came upon some kids playing out in front of their apartment. We spoke with Princess, who is 16. She told us her friend, her sister and their cousin were there on Saturday. All of them were hit by the car that killed Heather Heyer and had just gotten out of the hospital. Princess had been at the speak-out on Sunday that the Revolution Club organized. What did she think? “It was cool, how they were saying things, how some had experience down there [Saturday], it changed their lives, a lot.... Like it was emotional and stuff. I didn’t go. But there’s no reason, we’re all the same, no matter if we’re white, Black, purple, yellow, we’re still the same, and we’re always gonna be the same.... It’s gonna be a day for us to remember. Something like that never happened before.” Princess was really glad that people had come to oppose the fascists. “It was just fascinating, that people really cared. It was so amazing.”



Volunteers Needed... for revcom.us and Revolution

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.